Tractor Hacking: The Farmers Breaking Big Tech's Repair Monopoly



we're gonna hook my laptop up to this combine and try to get codes out of it I guess I would say what I'm doing hacking farms today use a tremendous amount of Technology dear mates claims that you only really have the license to use their software and for someone to say they own that the software pretty much takes away that the whole viability of the entire tractor or a piece of equipment the only person that can repair those tractors to a great extent is the dealership I mean look at the size of this machine if I had to haul this thing 100 miles every time something went wrong with it it cost a fortune I mean just to get it on a truck is a thousand bucks and by the time you get a halt somewhere and get a halt back you're 2 grand into fixing something maybe relatively minor what we've had developed is essentially a monopoly on repair we live in a disposable society when our technology breaks we replace it but the art of repair is still practiced by a select few in our tech obsessed culture tractors are the workhorses of agriculture but unlike the past the tractor of today is a complex computerized system that relies on embedded software to function while technology has made tractors more efficient it has made repair nearly impossible for farmers who need access to the software to repair their equipment we went to Nebraska to meet the people at the forefront of right to repair a movement fighting large tech companies for access to the diagnostic software needed to fix our things I am actually the fifth-generation farming here on this this operation where you sit today we've been around for a while since the mid 1800s the kids laugh cuz she's my cat she follows me around more the big tractors over here we used for the day-to-day operations in row crop farming anything that requires a lot of horsepower lot traction you know those are both big issues for us a smaller tractors like this little guy here we used for maintenance of the yard we use them a lot these little tractors we use a lot in the vegetable operation this is the tractor that I learn to drive tractor on one of the things on growing up on a farm that happens is you learn to do everything very young as soon as I could sit on the very front edge of that seat and push that clutch in I learned how to drive and the beauty of that tractor in terms of repair is I can go anywhere and get parts for it we could tear this thing down and overhaul it in probably a week's time it's a different era for sure the earliest developments were in the engines and probably from the mid 80s you know we started to see computerized components and engines to the point where in the mid-90s essentially the entire engine is run by the computer and so now today all functions of the tractor a run of the computer the seat in that tractor over there is more complicated than this entire tractor as tractors have become more high-tech the repairs have become more challenging we do not have the ability to hook up a computer to a tractor to diagnose it to repair it or even to activate components that we may buy to put on that tractor particularly with older tractors we would we would buy used reports and put on them to save money and today I can go out and there are use parts for these tractors these newer tractors that are available but if I put them on the tractor will run this receiver is for the most part a perfectly functioning receiver okay the what this does is it receives satellite signals from GPS satellites TCM in this is broken okay it's not functioning what we were told by dear is well we don't support this anymore so essentially what they did was they forced us to buy a new unit because they won't support this anymore and we can't get the repairs for it that's an action my house really I I work from a home I guess you call them but I got buildings I put up around here just so I could get work for work with home this is my latest project worked on it's uh we call it a ludic treasure but it's a monster truck I've built my business is lit EQ diesel basically have it repair shop and what I do is pretty much mostly is just repairs on your equipment just cuz I used to work under John Deere dealership for 23 years and all the customers know me so they come in and that's been great if it was actually a computer fault where the computer itself was damaged or whatnot it stopped communicating and had to replace it I could physically physically replace the computer but the computers come basically brain-dead so you have to have the software from John Deere for the serial number tractor my biggest situation that I do I can't fix everything you know every situation now is the Obie's I don't have you know john deere service advisor laptop you know i can't connect to the equipment pretty restricted on what i can do as far as a newer equipment one of the things I've been told some guys are doing to deal with these issues is there's pirated software out there from Eastern Europe the guys are utilizing to try to to get around this to be able to work on their tractors themselves I believe the software I got to hack version a John Deere's system when it comes to tractors I mean I farm so out of necessity they break down and I have to repair them in one way or another and it's a lot cheaper to do it myself than it is to haul it into a repair shop and our dealer to have a fix we got lots of I mean everywhere on a combine there's a sensor here and a sensor there and every every single little part of it has a electrical sensor and a couple of years ago we were doing a custom anhydrous fertilizer on corn fields and you have a real small window to be able to get this done in the year and the tractor broke down so I had to find this software to be able to repair my tractor and make my customer happy and make make a living there's a whole selection of the machines based on serial numbers and what they are and you got to pick the one out that's the right serial number for this machine and then you'll be able to come over here once you get a Beluga tin to this you know I can go in and I can do a diagnostic on it and it'll start checking all the codes and looking for what I have wrong and then I can go up here and I can look at them and see what the problem is and why it's popping up in 2015 the Library of Congress granted an exemption to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act that makes it legal for farmers to hack their tractors for the purposes of repair but software modification is still against John Deere's Terms of Service which were updated soon after the ruling despite this right to repair as a growing movement that's turning ordinary farmers like guy Mills into activists I wrote an op-ed in the paper after I research the Digital Millennium Copyright Act I talked to some other people in their farmers and I wrote this op did they said hey we were like what you said I said you know maybe we should do something about this so I made a resolution for our local Nebraska corridors and I said let's let's put something in our in our bylaws there that we we support a right to repair and who can argue with that then Lydia brushed and I must commend her she'd come in they'll be 67 the fair repair act gives an individual the ability you've always had the right but the ability to purchase the diagnostic tools and to take it somewhere local or to try to repair the equipment yourself Apple and Microsoft showed up the hearing in Lincoln why would Apple care about where the farmer from Nebraska works on his tractor lb 67 got the attention of big tech companies because it affects their a pair of all electronics including smartphones computers and of course tractors again the way the bill is drafted it says that any product that is sold and used in the state of Nebraska if I'm the big guy what I do is I I just don't sell my products in the state of Nebraska because they have to be sold here if it's online I don't sell to anybody who has a zip code in Nebraska and if I'm a little manufacturer I move out of the state of Nebraska you get lobbyists on occasion but never has anyone flown in to discourage me from introducing a bill and their points I believe were not valid I don't believe it's valid that this would open a mecca for hackers they stated their case they were doing their job and I believe I'm doing my job and protecting constituents in helping them you know to be able to grow economies our local towns the bill passes I can go by this cable instead of building my own and I would be able to just hook into the data port and be able to get all the information that I need right there I wouldn't have to improvise and build my own stuff to be able to see what's going on lb 67 or the fare repair act is still being held by the Nebraska State Legislature as of the beginning of 2018 twelve states are considering similar bills John Deere declined our request to visit nebraska dealerships but they gave us a statement regarding right to repair when I see the implement dealers and you do see them there people on your Main Street you know you don't wish them any ill you know you you wish them success you want them to continue to serve the community and and I think they can do that as they access or give you access to the technology of the Diagnostics it's just the diagnostics folks it's really interesting these older tractors are still capable of going out and doing a day's work and I wonder with all the technology we have in the in the newer tractors if the same will be true of them when they're that same age you

30 Comments

  1. Motherboard said:

    Farmers have always been self reliant, but big busines modernizations in the world of farm equipment has left most farmers in the dust. We investigate the farmers hacking their equipment to regain the right to repair their tools.

    WATCH NEXT: The Pinball Doctors, the Last Arcade Technicians in NYC – https://vice.video/2DRls2X

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  2. Nikolas Pontikos said:

    Can you make a similar documentary on doctors trying to fix their own medical equipment e.g ultrasound devices?

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  3. Cing Kole said:

    just get third party software drivers. 4Head

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  4. 840083008200 said:

    Where are we up to with this ?

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  5. EMP C said:

    Right to repair is bullshit. Buy a different brand tractor!!

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  6. dennisestrada75 said:

    Why I refuse to buy cars 2001 or newer

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  7. FDT Gåmïng said:

    Basically, apple's tractor version.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  8. Bhirawa Maylana said:

    10:49 yup what new technology do than just create waste, seriously Phone need replace every one year, Car won't run if use aftermarket parts even though it's genuine part, and use old hardware for new computer then sell it for more higher price, its time for tech industry to regulate themselves before Mass turn to Angry mob.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  9. David Alexandrovitch said:

    Any update?

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  10. David Alexandrovitch said:

    If I pay $200,000 for a tractor – I have the right to do what I want with it.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  11. David Alexandrovitch said:

    Buy IH

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  12. dylan focks said:

    If anyone knows how to tag a page would you please tag richrebuilds

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  13. Kelly Howard said:

    Remember when Apple used to design computers so they were easier for hobbyists to play around with?

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  14. 666hobart said:

    Planned obsolescence is a real thing.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  15. Zach Zimmerman said:

    That's why I say kubota is better

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  16. Krossbonzz said:

    As an ex Farmhand and ASE Chevy mechanic I'd say the Farmers are correct. Once a vehicle or machine is out of its warranty window then the buyer should be able to repair at will. And should be able to buy the necessary tools for such repairs be it electronic or mechanical tools. Anyone can buy an OBD sensor for your personal car so why not a tractor or implement. The manufacturers are just toying with the little guy like always. And all the Bill needs is to state "Agriculture equipment only" just like the Laws that make it so the little Farmhand like I was doesn't receive benefits such as Unemployment or Workman's Comp. Insurance……..

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  17. Hugo Solis said:

    Buy foreign then. Screw john deeeer

    June 28, 2019
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  18. KoolBreeze420 said:

    I know why Apple went they don't think you have the right to repair and won't sell you parts same as Tesla but why would Microsoft show up I can repair my computers without any hassle from anyone.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  19. Waffle Grimes said:

    Greed.pure and simple.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  20. baja joes said:

    IF JD & others are going to fight farmers about Fixing high priced equipment that is indispensable to Farm, they MUST get an adequate Force of Repair people that are available 24 hrs/day and will go to the equipment! If that happens this won't be much of an issue!
    Maybe the key is to have someone working for JD who can give the Community priority.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  21. Emma Renee said:

    Farming has such a small profit margin and can be so volatile, farmers don't need to be hassled over any more money.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  22. Icanifiwant said:

    And John Deere is in the lead telling you you don't own the tractor you just bought..

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  23. Dan Reid said:

    Corporate GREED has no bounds!

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  24. Bob Martin said:

    Selling a product that stops working just after the guarantee expires and the inly option they offer is an overpriced repair service is fraud.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  25. blues man said:

    It sickens me to think that big $ has become such scum, This world has gone nuts over a buck.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  26. dave kahn said:

    I'm going to sell all my Farming Simulator John Deere tractors now

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  27. turing said:

    What kills me about this is the dumb ass state senator that with the with best intent could have legalized hacking in all case, it's stupid there could have been so many way to protect farmer and not allow hacking like for example create and update every year a list of industry that are monopolies and for which you have the right to practice this kind of repair
    The worst is the part where she says i just don't believe it could have this consequence, she could have said we created it to make in sort that this doesn't happen or based on that study it won't have those consequences but no it's just a gut feeling they are playing the apprentice sorcerer and use a state/Americans company as practice partner

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  28. STL Fila said:

    Guess you need to stop buying John Deere tractors, n buy international

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  29. Doughnut Spaghetti said:

    It's not different than what software companies do for business and corporations. It's exactly why open source always wins. You can never convince administrators of that. They just get suckered in by salesmen and "legal bribes." In they end they are at the mercy of the software company that will lock down pretty much everything and charge you ridiculous feeds to solve the most basic of problems. Add that to licensing fees required for updates to keep it secure. This is why hackers exist. The more locked down something is, the more tempting a target for a hacker to crack it.

    June 28, 2019
    Reply
  30. jonnybgud0310 said:

    This is the same for modern day car components, the same monopoly exists in diagnostics for all the manufacturers….

    June 28, 2019
    Reply

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